Most church leaders want to build communities that last, with members that stick with them through thick and thin.
While visitors may come and go and even the most devoted members may eventually be called elsewhere, churches can only thrive when there’s a sense of long-term commitment (like most of life’s most important relationships).
Too often, church leaders know the pain of seeing members filter in and out, “church shop” for long periods of time, or stagger in their long-term commitment to a specific church body. They also know the joy of watching members grow with one another in one-another relationships, experience lasting transformation, overcome conflict and trials, and build deeply rooted communities that invite others into knowing Jesus.
Without commitment and consistency from members, the church remains more of an event or activity than an actual community. While there’s certainly good that comes from any organization that worships God and loves people, a church without consistent attendance and engagement will be limited in its ability to help people grow.
In the following article, we’ll talk about how to build a culture of commitment and consistency at your church–putting down deep roots, helping people to become more like Jesus, and even seeing lasting change in your community at large.
What is a culture of commitment & consistency?
“Commitment” and “consistency” may have different connotations for different people. “Consistency,” for example, might bring to mind a consistent routine or habit that produces fruit over the long haul. And “commitment” might suggest a long-term relationship, or a commitment to a job, volunteer opportunity, or goal.
While these connotations certainly ring true, they may not dig deep enough to reveal the actual nature of commitment and consistency. More than the result of self-discipline or a particular personality type, commitment and consistency are tied to inner belief systems and values.
Even the least routine-oriented person might show exceptional loyalty to a group of friends if they believe those relationships bring them fulfillment, growth, and an opportunity to love. And even the most skeptical person will continue to show up at a small group if they know that community is ultimately beneficial to their spiritual life. Commitment and consistency can supersede any personality type or even generational stereotype. In other words, any church, anywhere, can build a culture of commitment and consistency.
A church culture of commitment and consistency:
- Encourages members to continually and habitually gather for corporate worship, teaching, communion, and prayer (Let us not give up meeting together – Hebrews 10:24-25).
- Maintains accountability and healthy interdependence, while still creating space for flexibility and transience.
- Encourages members to make a habit and practice of worship, prayer, learning, devotional time, service, and more.
- Anticipates that church members who commit to a community will build long-term relationships and engage in regular activities and services.
Commitment & consistency are about relationships.
Did you notice a common theme from the list above? Ultimately, commitment and consistency are about relationships with one another, and with God.
In 1984, Professor Robert Cialdini released a book called Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. In it, Cialdini names the “six principles of influence” over whether a person will say “yes.” These principles include commitment and consistency.
While Cialdini was writing in context of marketing and business, he was ultimately explaining the power of building relationships. In other words, the purpose of both commitment and consistency is not to control behavior but to build relationships.
Commitment and consistency are rooted in character, passion, and self-discipline–all by-products of knowing Christ. However, there are principles and practices that every church can put into place that can make these a part of the culture and help church members thrive.
1. Focus on building community.
Like it or not, commitment can be both an emotional and a values-based decision.
If someone commits to a church, they are likely doing it for one or more of three reasons. First, they feel loved and supported by the community. Next, they get a sense of value from participating in the community. Finally, they believe that committing to relationships and community is a core principle of being a follower of Christ.
That being said, it’s important to remember that meeting people’s needs is going to be one of the primary ways that you’ll initially help build a community.
Jesus met people’s immediate needs for healing, love, and affirmation. When He healed the leper in Matthew 8, Jesus not only met the man’s physical needs; He gave him value in a society that marginalized people with leprosy. When He intervened when the woman caught in adultery was being stoned (John 8), He set her free physically and spiritually by protecting her and telling her truth.
Building a community means meeting people where they’re at. Do you live in a city that struggles with loneliness? Then encourage deep friendships. Are you ministering in a community with great physical needs? Then seek to serve others through generosity.
Regardless of where you live, nearly any church can benefit from:
- Small groups. Sunday morning service is wonderful, but there’s nothing like a small group to make church members feel more connected, provide opportunities for personal prayer, and create space for friendships.
- Discipleship and mentorship. Especially if your church is on the larger side, it can be difficult for individuals to find mentors or even basic support. Emphasizing discipleship and mentorship at your church–not just from church leaders–encourages close relationships for providing support, accountability, and mentorship.
- Social gatherings. Create space for people to meet, connect, and fellowship outside of mid-week services, prayer groups, or even small groups.
Successfully building community is not an overnight effort. It’s a process that could take years to do well. But regardless of how successful you feel at it, the intent is significant. When your visitors and members know that you are making an effort to provide much-needed community, they are far more likely to commit.
2. Define your values.
We live in a culture that doesn’t place a high value on consistency and commitment, especially among younger generations. In fact, consistency and commitment seem to be in direct opposition to optionality, change, adventure, and novelty–the very things that are glorified through marketing and media.
Having a spirit of adventure certainly isn’t a bad thing. But without valuing long-term commitment, patience, and perseverance through trial and conflict, followers of Jesus are unlikely to stick to a church. That doesn’t mean just going to church; it can also mean serving, engaging with others, building relationships, and more.
To encourage commitment and consistency, define those values explicitly in Sunday morning messages, marketing material, staff meetings, and one-to-one conversations. Talk about why commitment is important. Point back to Scripture for examples of those who put down roots, built God’s house over time, and persevered through trial.
Finally, don’t forget to model these values within leadership. You can’t expect commitment and consistency from the people you lead unless you exhibit it well yourself.
3. Give people responsibility.
“The thing that can keep people rooted and grounded in churches is to commit to something at the church,” says Dakota Shyres, executive assistant to Bobby Schuller, lead pastor of Shepherd’s Grove in Irvine, CA. “That might be serving on the hospitality team, doing prayer ministry, or doing homeless ministry."
"Whatever it is, that commitment keeps you with the community, serving together, and doing the Lord’s work together,” she continues.
In other words, providing opportunities for people to assume responsibility is a powerful way to cultivate commitment in your church. When church members have a chance to use their skills and abilities to serve in a practical way, they begin to feel important–even essential–to the operations and the service of the community.
“Responsibility is important because it provides a sense of purpose, in addition to building resilience amidst adversity on an individual and societal level,” says counselor Steve Rose.
Responsibility can not only feed a sense of purpose; it can help build resilience, which is key to persevering and remaining steadfast through struggles that can derail commitment.
4. Dive into spiritual disciplines.
Spiritual disciplines such as prayer, Bible reading, fasting, silence and solitude, simplicity, and service are included in the calling of every person who follows Christ. Spiritual disciplines strengthen the believer’s relationship to God and can grow character, devotion, and of course, discipline.
“The Disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that he can transform us,” says Richard Foster, author of Celebration of Discipline. Spiritual disciplines are not about earning God’s favor. They’re about positioning before God, unto personal transformation.
That personal transformation can often include a greater ability to commit to an activity or obligation. For example, a daily Bible reading routine requires a certain degree of intentionality and sacrifice. When followers of Christ learn to sacrifice their own comfort and time for the sake of pursuing God, that can spill over into regular commitment to a church community.
5. Listen and empathize.
Listening to and empathizing with church members doesn’t mean shifting doctrine or vision with every new opinion or suggestion. It simply means listening to your church members on what’s meaningful to them and what they might like to see changed, and responding with thoughtfulness.
Ultimately, listening to your church members, asking questions, and even collecting feedback can help encourage commitment and consistency through building trust. Listening brings members into the process of building a community and going after the Kingdom of God together.
Here are some ways you might actively listen to your church members:
- Seek to understand the perspectives and viewpoints of others by asking questions in meetings and conversations.
- Send out a church survey via email. This is a great way to understand preferences on time/scheduling, church communications, and more.
- Practice healthy listening in discipleship and mentorship relationships.
Ultimately, listening well creates a safe space for church members to feel heard and understood. It also helps build a relationship that they can commit to over the long haul.
6. Love people well.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
God sets the lonely in families (Psalm 68:6a)
At the end of the day, people will commit to your community when they feel loved. The Body of Christ is meant to be a spiritual family, and when people are experiencing the genuine love of Christ, they’ll want to keep coming back. Loving people well is the ultimate key to creating a culture of commitment and consistency. When people feel loved, they commit–not just to a church, but to knowing and following Jesus.
A final note on building culture
Building culture at your church requires more than just talking about something or mentioning it on your values page. It requires a full integration of that set of values into the way your church runs and communicates–including your internal management system, marketing and church media, and more.
Tithe.ly is an all-in-one church platform that can help you create media, a management system, and communications that reflect your cultural values.
To place special emphasis on consistency and commitment, you’ll want:
a) a platform that provides space for consistent communication and engagement, and
b) media and messaging that communicate the desire to build a committed and consistent community.
Tithe.ly can help you intentionally build culture through providing digital tools and resources such as:
- Tithe.ly Media, which offers free church media to help you create social media posts, website content, sermon series graphics that reflect your core values.
- Tithe.ly ChMS (church management software) to help your church to stay organized and engaged with church members through people and member management, service planning, reporting and insights, and more.
- Tithe.ly Apps for helping members to engage with you on a consistent basis, learn about upcoming events and small groups, and feel “plugged in” even from a distance.
The best part? Tithe.ly is super affordable to use on an ongoing basis–making it ideal for churches of any size. To try Tithe.ly for free, click here.